P1 is Planning.
P2 is Process.
P3 is Pomodoro!
In my quest for better time management skills, I ran across this deceptively simple technique.
The Pomodoro Technique is a very effective time management method that can be used for any kind of task using only a kitchen timer, pen and paper. The technique was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s when he was a college student to help him focus and avoid distractions and interruptions. He used a kitchen timer in the shape of a tomato (pomodoro in Italian) to focus his time. His excellent website includes his free 45 page downloadable book, a cheat sheet, and other free, useful printouts to help you get started. I have found this technique to be very helpful in planning and using my time more efficiently.
The tools for the Pomodoro technique are simple and inexpensive and you probably already have them lying around your house. You need a kitchen timer, a pencil and some paper. Label one page TO DO TODAY, another ACTIVITY INVENTORY, and lastly, RECORD SHEET. (You can also download and print templates from www.pomodorotechnique.com.
According to Mr. Cirillo, there are five stages in the process underlying the Pomodoro Technique.
- Planning: at the start of the day to decide on the day’s activities.
- Tracking: throughout the day to gather raw data on the effort expended and other metrics of interest.
- Recording: at the end of the day to compile an archive of daily observations.
- Processing: at the end of the day to transform raw data into information.
- Visualizing: at the end of the day to present the information in a format that facilitates the understanding and clarifies paths to improvement.
To begin; put all the activities you have to accomplish on THE ACTIVITY INVENTORY SHEET in no particular order. I call this my brain dump. Jot things down as they come to you, and add to this list as necessary.
Next, select the tasks from your ACTIVITY INVENTORY you need to accomplish today and move them to your TO DO TODAY list in descending order of priority.
A Pomodoro is 30 minutes long. It consists of 25 minutes of focused work and a five minute break before beginning the next Pomodoro. Select the topmost item on your list. Set your timer for 25 minutes and focus on your task until the timer rings. When the timer rings, you are not allowed to keep on working “just for a few more minutes”, even if you’re convinced that in those few minutes you could complete the task at hand. Mark your TO DO TODAY sheet with an X next to the task and take a 5 minute break. Keep working, Pomodoro after Pomodoro, until the task is completed, then cross it out on the TO DO TODAY sheet. Every 4 Pomodoros take a longer break. (15-30 minutes)
The breaks allow you to “disconnect” from the work. This allows your mind to assimilate what’s been learned/accomplished over the last 25 minutes; it also provides you with a chance to do something good for you! Walk around, stretch, get a drink, plan your vacation. It’s important to let your mind relax; don’t engage in activities that require significant mental effort. When you return to your task, your brain will be refreshed and ready to refocus.
Mr. Cirillo suggests some rules and tips:
- A Pomodoro is indivisible. It is a complete unit.
- Once a Pomodoro begins, it has to ring. If you allow yourself to be interrupted, it doesn’t count.
- Remember! The next Pomodoro will go better.
At first, I found the timer a little distracting, but now, it helps me focus. I know that as long as my little ladybug timer ticks, I need to concentrate on the task at hand…a break is coming.
Using the Pomodoro technique has also been very useful for me in handling interruptions. My family knows, when the timer is ticking, mom is working. They also know that within 25 minutes or less, they will have my full attention.
One of the greatest things about using the Pomodoro technique is that it not only improves focus, but also is a tool/process for improving productivity. By tracking how many Pomodoros a task takes, (like writing this post, for instance) I am better able to plan and manage my time.
Those are the basics. If you are interested in using all five stages of the Pomodoro technique and how to handle interruptions both internal and external, check out the website, www.pomodorotechnique.com and download the free resources available there.
Using the Pomodoro Technique has helped me stay focused and be more productive as a writer. As a homeschool mom, I’m including timers on my school supply list for each of my kids. It is a powerful tool to help them see time as a valuable ally, and train them to avoid ineffective study habits that lead to procrastination. And, hopefully turn time from tormentor to ally, on their pathway to success.